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FFA members hone skills beyond farming

Just as the agricultural industry has changed with young men and young women seeking careers off the farm, Future Farmers of America has evolved.

Though the FFA acronym is still part of the national organization’s brand, members are not just future farmers. They are future biologists, chemists, veterinarians, engineers and entrepreneurs.

FFA is the largest of the career and technical student organizations in U.S. schools, with more than 600,000 members nationwide.

FFA chapters are thriving in the Rogue Valley.

Crater, Eagle Point, Hidden Valley, Phoenix, Prospect and Rogue River high schools all have strong programs.

With more than 150 members on its roster, the chapter at Rogue River Junior/Senior High School is the largest in the Rogue Valley and fifth largest in the state, says Sam Herringshaw, an agriculture instructor and one of two FFA advisers at Rogue River.

“The reason that FFA has been able to not only stay in existence, but have continual growth, is the relation agriculture has to careers off the farm or ranch,” says Herringshaw. “Nearly half of all careers available in the United States are related to or in support of the agriculture industry.”

Today’s agriculture education program focuses on leadership, communication and technology, in addition to the science of plants and animals, he says. Food, fiber and natural resource industries are explored, too.

FFA is one of the three components of school-based agricultural education: inquiry-based instruction and interactive learning in the classroom and laboratory; hands-on agriculture-related work experience; and leadership, personal growth and career exploration.

FFA students have an opportunity to participate in career and leadership development events as well as compete at district, regional, state and national levels. They test their skills in ag mechanics, ag sales and marketing, ag issues, environmental and natural resources, agronomy, soil evaluation, floriculture, forestry, food science and technology, range land judging, poultry and livestock evaluation, nursery and landscape management, veterinary science, wildlife management, public speaking and parliamentary procedures.

Like Rogue River, many of the local chapters manage an on-campus greenhouse, tend to a community garden or operate a small ag-related business.

For high school students uncertain about their future after graduation, FFA is one avenue to explore career options and earn a scholarship toward post-secondary education.

To join FFA, students must be enrolled in an agriculture course at their school. Annual dues for membership in the national FFA organization is $7. State or chapter dues may be tacked on.

“One of the reasons we have experienced so much growth is because we get a grant each year that pays for the FFA membership dues,” says Herringshaw. “Essentially, every student that enrolls in an agriculture class has his/her dues paid.”

Community support for the program has given the Rogue River chapter a boost, too.

In February, the students organized the 23rd Beef Feed and Auction. More than 300 community members attended and more than $15,000 was raised.

Herringshaw believes that FFA experience is unique among other school-based clubs because of its focus on helping “students build skills that will help them build successful careers.”

For information about FFA chapters at local high schools, contact the following advisors:

Rogue River Junior/Senior High School, sam.herringshaw@rogueriver.k12.or.us or nicole.bambio@rogueriver.k12.or.us.

Crater High School, kristin.kostman@district6.org and james.miller@district6.org.

Eagle Point High School, Traci Hinkson, hinksont@eaglepnt.k12.or.us and Curtis North, northc@eaglepnt.k12.or.us.

Hidden Valley High School, thomas.ayres@threerivers.k12.or.us.

Phoenix High School, hillary.walkup@phoenix.k12.or.us and jeremy.kennedy@phoenix.k12.or.us.

Prospect Charter School, Rocky VanWormer can be emailed via the school’s website, www.prospect.k12.or.us.

If there isn’t a FFA chapter at your school, a school counselor or agriculture instructor can help you organize one.

For more information on how to start a FFA chapter, go to the national website, www.ffa.org, or the state website, www.oregonffa.com.

Reach Grants Pass freelance writer Tammy Asnicar at tammyasnicar@q.com.

Rogue River High senior Amber Cripps, left, and junior Ashley Drake transplant flowers to make hanging planters.
Rogue River High sophomore Rebecca Aust plants tomato seeds.